*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
At the heart of this debate today are two very simple questions.
Does the government have something to hide?
And will members opposite now vote for a cleanup or some other cover-up?
The Prime Minister just said a few minutes ago that he is very happy to publish all the details of the Randox contracts. If so, he should vote for our motion today and publish all documents and correspondence related to the Randox contracts and the questionable lobbying that has taken place around them.
The motion before the House is very simple.
We already know that the former MP for North Shropshire broke the lobbying rules.
We already know that Randox was awarded £ 600million in taxpayer money without a tender.
We already know that Randox won a second £ 347million contract after failing to deliver a previous £ 133million contract.
We already know that this decision was taken after a conference call meeting involving then-MP for North Shropshire and Health Minister Lord Bethell.
What we don’t know is what happened at those meetings. Who else was present, what was discussed and what was decided.
We don’t know what was said in correspondence before or after, including through private email accounts or phones. We do not know why or how these contracts were awarded, what rules may have been broken and what role the lobbying of the MP for North Shropshire played in government decisions.
We know that they refused to respond to access to information requests on these points.
And we know that this is far from the only time they have deviated from reviewing these decisions.
Take the mystery of Lord Bethell’s mobile, for example.
The House may recall that the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson categorically denied that ministers ever used private accounts for government business, only to make this denial collapse.
The government has now admitted in court that Lord Bethell had corresponded on the subject of government procurement via WhatsApp or SMS, while searches of his three private emails using keywords on Covid contracts brought to light. day tens of thousands of messages and documents.
In December last year, Lord Bethell learned that his cell phone would be searched for documents. A few weeks later, he said he had “replaced” that phone.
First, he claimed his phone had been “lost”.
Then he said he was “broken”.
Then he said he gave it to a family member.
Finally, almost a year later, he remembered that he had had the phone all along!
But unfortunately he used to systematically delete his WhatsApp and unfortunately the relevant messages can all be lost.
He said the problem – I’m not making it up – was exacerbated by using two phones. A staff as well as its official.
At least that I agree with him.
That is why we are calling for transparency today.
Frankly, we have every reason to be concerned about the way procurement decisions were made and the lack of a paper trail to show that they were made correctly.
The question is therefore very simple. What are the ministers hiding?
If they have nothing to hide… And no rules have been broken… Then surely Ministers would be happy to publish details of these meetings and correspondence?
But they refused, time and time again. We therefore tabled this motion today and we will vote on it.
Because the only logical conclusion is that there is something to hide. That the dubious lobbying at the heart of this scandal has played a role in how huge sums of taxpayer dollars have been spent.
Which brings me to the second simple question for the House today.
Two weeks ago the government led members across the way through lobbies to pull themselves together and hide themselves. Many have publicly and privately expressed regret for voting in favor of this motion. I have no doubt that their regret is sincere, and they must surely now have a fresh eye on those who led them through the halls.
The Prime Minister has shamed our democracy and this House. This vote undermined confidence in our democracy and the integrity of the public service.
So today I say to the honorable and very honorable members opposite. Learn your lesson. Do not vote for another cover.
The first step in restoring trust is to publish these documents today.
Mr.Speaker, taxpayers’ money must be treated with respect, not handed out backhanded to companies that pay Conservative MPs to lobby on their behalf.
And Randox is just the tip of the iceberg in this scandal.
Just yesterday, we finally discovered the list of preferred suppliers referring to the so-called VIP route for the purchase of PPE.
Information that ministers voluntarily did not disclose, despite a decision by the Information Commissioner, and which we have only discovered now due to a leak.
And no wonder they didn’t want to publish it.
We know that companies that went the VIP route were ten times more likely to win a contract than anyone else.
As ministers belatedly admitted, many did not go through the so-called eight-step due diligence process.
We now know how they entered the VIP lane in the first place.
Not a single one of them had been referred by a politician from a political party other than the Conservative Party.
Of the 47 successful companies revealed yesterday, the initial referral source was a politician or conservative advisor in 19 cases.
The then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the cabinet member who oversaw the entire emergency procurement program, stepped up the offer from one of his friends and personal donors – which won hundreds millions of pounds of public money.
Three and a half billion pounds of contracts have been awarded by this government to its political donors and to its fellow ministers.
Almost an additional £ 3bn has been wasted on unusable PPE, costing the UK taxpayer £ 1m a day to store.
So yes, we need an investigation on that as well. We need every pound and penny that has been handed out investigated and learned so that public money is no longer wasted.
But today the issue before the House is very simple.
Do we choose to clean or cover.
I know that Members of this House care about our democracy.
Although we disagree on a lot of things, I hope we agree on the importance of trust in our politics. The values of honesty and integrity in the public service.
A vote for our motion is simply a vote for the truth. To tackle the dubious lobbying which has shamed this House.
The Prime Minister created a corruption scandal that engulfed his government and his party.
And voting for another cover today would send a very clear message.
Let the Prime Minister be more concerned with covering up questionable lobbying than fixing the situation.
Let him care more about his personal interest than the public interest.
After the last two weeks, that is surely not the message the members opposite want to get across.
So I say today, I hope the benches opposite are listening, let’s finish the blanket and start the cleanup.